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A small Italian studio Caracal Games Studio is using Unreal Engine 4 to create a visually stunning parkour runner Downward set in a completely open world. We’ve discussed the creative process behind this game and figured out how do you build a hardcore action/adventure with vast open areas.
Caracal Games Studio
Caracal Games Studio has only 5 members, which are the chief & lead designer, a programmer & animator, a production assistant, a concept artist and an PR manager. We’re all friends All since high school. When growing up we started to study and work in different fields, but always remained hooked to videogames and programming in some way, so that when our designer had the inspiration to start the project, we were all more than ready to give him a hand.
We have always been fascinated by the parkour-themed gameplay. It’s just pure freedom! In the current and the last generations of games parkour feature has become more and more present but never a real challenge. What we want to create as developers is an old school hard-core game, with more difficult challenges than Assassin’s Creed can give you. What we really look up to with Downward is to make something like a first person Prince of Persia, without “Prince” and without “Persia”.
We believe that Epic Games‘ policy towards independent developers is the most successful among the options available on the market. More than its competitors, Epic Games is attentive towards the needs and objectives of independent developers, providing them with a great variety of customizable tools. Unreal Engine 4 is extremely versatile and can be used to develop games for all budget levels, from simple projects to AAA.
Unreal Engine already offers a full package of items to develop games from the foundations to the finest details. We also love to work with the Persona Animation Editor, which is part of the Unreal package. Of course other programs are needed and, being a small team, for now we also aid ourselves with Mixamo Fuse, to create models and make animations.
Building an Open World
As it was shown and demonstrated by Epic Games, the Unreal Engine can definitely sustain the development of open-world games. Of course, the main problem of open-world environment is finding a good compromise between an acceptable frame-rate and the quantity and quality of objects loaded on screen.
With regard to the open-world issue, the term “open-world” shall not be confused with the “free roaming” mechanics. As a reference, Downward’s open-world will resemble the ones of Dark Souls and Prince of Persia (2008), where you can get everywhere but you are constrained to follow some obligatory steps.
Our objective is to make the player feel as if he is completely immersed in the environment. The best way to achieve this is by making levels that are interesting and awe-inspiring, but at the same practical. For that reason, building harmonious levels is paramount for us.
In order to achieve the best results possible we try to follow a standard procedure, based on the suggestions of our designer. As first step, we begin by selecting the kind of environment we want to build. Then, starting from this basic idea we build an harmonious set of details, all consistent with each other and the environment. In doing so, we define what natural characteristics of the biome we can use to develop parkour mechanics and the other puzzles.
We also had to spend a lot of time with building the sky. The Celestial Sphere will have an important role in the story of Downward. We couldn’t have been satisfied with a simple painted sky, so we decided to use actual meshes, moving in real-time and which follow the events of the game.